Don't let cold weather limit outdoor activities
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- For many Mississippians, cold and wet conditions make this the least likely time of year to venture outside, but an outdoors lover knows it just takes a little preparation and a positive attitude to hit the trail and enjoy viewing wildlife.Having grown up in a climate much colder than Mississippi's, I learned a valuable skill to help cope with unpleasantly cold weather: layering clothing.
Before I venture outside, warm socks are my first priority. I prefer wool blends with mostly wool for two reasons: comfort and warmth.
Wool maintains its ability to trap heat and keep you warm even when it is wet. That’s a very desirable trait when the weather is cool and moist. Wool also helps wick moisture away from the body, which helps reduce chaffing and blisters. A bonus is that wool does not absorb odors easily. Cotton does a horrible job of keeping us warm when wet.
Many people like to wear hiking boots, but they may not always be necessary. At the very least, wear a pair of comfortable shoes. Choose a pair that you don’t mind getting dirty. Some boots have built-in insulation, as well.
For days that will be extra cool, a base layer is important. Wool long underwear is great, but it can get a little expensive. I have found polypropylene long underwear is an excellent and less expensive option. Just like wool, it helps trap heat and wick moisture. Depending on the temperature and how cold you get, you can top the long underwear with shorts, pants or overalls.
On top, I typically wear a tucked-in synthetic T-shirt, which keeps the wind from going up my shirt. If it is quite cold, I will put some long underwear under my T-shirt. I tuck in a long-sleeved shirt to help maintain a nice core temperature and add a warm jacket to block the wind or elements. On really cold days, I wear a vest under a jacket to help hold extra heat. A hat and gloves also trap a lot of heat.
Unlike sitting in a tree stand, hiking will warm you up and can create perspiration. Part of the reason for layering is so you can remove articles when you get too warm but still maintain a comfortable temperature overall. Avoid perspiring, as it can wet the base layer of clothing and cool you too much, possibly leading to hypothermia.
Mississippi has hundreds of thousands of acres of public land to explore. From local and state parks to national areas, such as the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Wildlife Refuge, outdoor recreation abounds. Check with the welcome centers, websites or ranger stations for maps of these areas before heading to the forest for recreation.
If you bring a pet or are outside during a hunting season, make sure you follow the rules of the area. Wearing bright orange makes you visible at a distance to hunters and other people enjoying the outdoors.
It’s chilly this time of the year, but when you are properly prepared, you can still have a very enjoyable time exploring Mother Nature’s natural wonders close to home. Now, let’s get outside and explore.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.